Destroyed infrastructure prevents Syrian refugees from returning home: Assad

Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
3 min read

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Wednesday that the biggest obstacle to millions of refugees returning home is a lack of infrastructure, devastated by more than a decade of civil war.

The Syria conflict has killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and battered the country’s infrastructure and industry since it began in 2011 with the government’s repression of peaceful anti-government protests.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The war pulled in foreign powers and extremists, and while the front lines have mostly quietened in recent years, large parts of the country’s north remain outside government control.

Asked during an interview with Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia television about the greatest challenge to refugee returns, Assad responded: “Logistically, infrastructure which terrorists destroyed.”

“We have started general dialogue” with United Nations humanitarian bodies “on return projects,” financing and UN demands, said Assad, citing a lack of water, electricity, schools and health care facilities.

Assad, who refers to all those opposed to the government as “terrorists,” has seen increased engagement with Middle East countries this year.

Syria was readmitted to the Arab League in May, ending more than a decade of regional isolation.

Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt host at least 5.5 million refugees, according to the United Nations, and refugee returns have been a key issue at recent regional discussions.

But as countries have increased calls for refugees to return, rights groups warned against forced returns and raised safety fears, saying some returnees have faced arrest or persecution, allegations which Assad denied in the interview.

Regional countries are also seeking cooperation from Damascus on issues including fighting the drug trade.

“When there is war and the state is weakened,” the drug trade flourishes and “this is normal,” Assad said.

“The countries that contributed to creating chaos in Syria bear the responsibility for this, not the Syrian state,” he added.

The Syrian president pointed to dialogue between Damascus and Arab officials on fighting the drug trade.

“We have a shared interest in eliminating this phenomenon,” he said.

Arab outreach to Assad gained momentum this year after a deadly February 6 earthquake struck Syria and Turkey, and accelerated as Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore bilateral ties the following month in a surprise China-brokered deal.

Read more:

Turkish drone strikes kill two PKK militants in Northern Iraq

Ukrainian naval warfare leaves Russian military in Syria cut off from supplies: UK

Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Iran resumes work after 7 years: IRNA

Top Content Trending